Reputation is currency in the new trust economy

In a world where your brand is less what you say and more the collective shared interactions of those who have experienced it, you have to build trust.

Trust is a commodity of value. Consumers not only want trust from their brands, but very quickly in our transparent online world, our own personas are being measured for trust. In her famous Collaborative Consumption TED Talk, Rachel Botsman, remarked, “Reputation is becoming a currency that will be more powerful than our credit histories in the 21st Century.”

trust_economy_social_proof Ironically as technology connects people across the world, enabling the collaborative consumption model that businesses such as Uber, AirBNB and Task Rabbit are based on, it is rediscovering humanness, built on relationships, which has allowed these companies to scale.

We’ve gone from trusting the sharing of information online with people, to handing over our credit card information, to finally trusting strangers to create people powered marketplaces. Why else would we rent out our place to a stranger on AirBNB or jump in a car with a complete stranger, because he drives for Uber?

I believe virtual trust is now transforming the way we trust face to face. And that has implications for business that go beyond collaborative consumption. Reputation and trust are the new currency.

The Pew Research Centre recently found that active Facebook users are 3X more likely to believe people are trustworthy. And I can add my own anecdotal evidence to that. Last week I found myself downtown in a parking garage without my wallet. In shuffling items from briefcase to purse the previous day, I had forgotten to put my wallet back. Never had I wished more that I had linked up the “pay by phone” APP to my credit card, but there I was with a parked car, a client meeting shortly, no payment method in sight, and the prospect of an expensive ticket or tow on the horizon.

So I decided to simply ask the next person I saw to pay for my parking. It was a pretty bullish move, but I figured working in sales for years surely had resulted in some persuasion skills. Of course I promised to post a cheque or do an e-transfer, and offered up my business card as collateral to track me. Remarkably a young guy named Jamie Jessup forked over $15 on his credit card to bail me out that afternoon and we had quite a chuckle over it subsequently, when I transferred the funds + a trust bonus the next day.

Perhaps it was a Canadian thing. We’re so polite, he didn’t want to say no. Or perhaps it was the season. It IS almost Christmas. But I think it was something else. Virtual online trust has transformed the way we trust face to face.


But the bigger question is, what social proof does your business have online to gain trust? Here are some ideas to generate social proof:

  • Quotes from delighted customers
  • Independent rating scores on feedback sites
  • Online reviews
  • Media appearances and third party endorsements
  • Awards, certifications, education credentials
  • Client case studies
  • Published work
  • Social media influence (followers, influencers, score)
  • Social shares of content ( ) as third party validation


Trust is what builds business. It’s an approach I’ve taken the last number of years publishing regularly to my blog as well as generating a weekly e-newsletter of marketing tips to “my insider subscriber” tribe. When you are helpful and personable, people get to know, like and trust you. While that doesn’t immediately make the cash register sing, it does lead to a relationship that very often results in business. Reputation is currency in the new trust economy, and trust is something that is earned.

PS: For the record, I have now stuffed a $20 in a secret stash of my briefcase to prevent any embarrassing future parking garage encounters!


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My thanks, and have a joyous holiday season!



Mary Charleson

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